North Korea said on Thursday that its government had executed Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un. Until recently, Jang was widely regarded as the second most powerful man in the country. The state-run KCNA news agency called Jang a "traitor," claiming that he "brought together undesirable forces" in the country to form an opposition faction. His removal from power, and ultimate execution, is likely part of Kim's broader strategy to consolidate power.
Weeks ago, images and mentions of Jang began to disappear from North Korea's state-produced media, indicating that some sort of purging was afoot. This week, it became clear that his removal from power was something more than a momentary falling out between the two when the state-run media accused Jang of fomenting dissent, womanizing, gambling, and using drugs. On Sunday, the country's state-run news agency broadcast images of Jang being forcibly removed from an emergency meeting of the country's ruling party. Jang was purged once before, in 2004, under Kim Jong Il's rule.
The KCNA report on Jang's execution goes even further to demonize the character of Kim's former mentor, calling him "Despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog:"
From long ago, Jang had a dirty political ambition. He dared not raise his head when Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were alive. But, reading their faces, Jang had an axe to grind and involved himself in double-dealing. He began revealing his true colors, thinking that it was just the time for him to realize his wild ambition in the period of historic turn when the generation of the revolution was replaced.
"Jang committed such an unpardonable thrice-cursed treason as overtly and covertly standing in the way of settling the issue of succession to the leadership," KCNA continued. Reportedly, North Korea also executed some of Jang's associates.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.